During a sometimes contentious meeting Tuesday night, the Charles County Board of Education adopted the package of legislation it will seek from next year's General Assembly.
Among the legislative issues the school board has decided to throw its weight behind are a pay raise for board members in 2002 and an increase in state allocations for school construction projects as well as the availability of portable classrooms.
The board also voted to request a review of the funding formula for transportation and to support any legislation that would provide tuition assistance to students who decide to go to college to study teaching and agree to teach for at least a while in Maryland.
A request by the Education Association of Charles County, the teachers bargaining group, to support so-called agency fees spurred one of the most heated debates of the evening as two board members took adamantly opposed stances on the issue. The proposal failed on a tie vote of the six members present.
An agency fee arrangement would require all teachers--even those who do not join the teachers union--to pay a fee for the actual cost of services they receive, including representation in contract negotiations.
"Not supporting what they have to do in order to meet the costs they incur . . . I just think that would be doing a real disservice to our teachers," said board member Mary L. Haff, who supported the fee.
Board member Sharon Caniglia disagreed. "There are a lot of teachers in our system who, yes, are represented in contract negotiations but wouldn't need any of the other services," she said.
"To get into the business of us as a board telling our teachers what associations to belong to, I think that's dangerous," Caniglia added.
Paying for Growth in Calvert
The charts and handouts given to the 70 or so Calvert County residents who showed up at a town hall meeting Tuesday night focused on new or increased taxes as a way for revenue to keep pace with costs in the state's fastest-growing county.
"If people want municipal centers, more teachers, better roads and recreational facilities, they have to pay for them," said Pat Elder of the League of Women Voters, which sponsored the forum in Prince Frederick titled "Calvert's Future--Surplus or Deficit?"
But the audience was less interested in taxes and more in quality-of-life issues, raising questions addressing water safety, an animal shelter, development, juvenile crime rates, child care, sanitation facilities, volunteerism, homelessness and schools adapting to student needs.
Representatives from the Boys and Girls Club, Board of Education and other youth-related groups asked for county support for after-school programs and delinquency-prevention measures. Currently, no county funds are allocated for such programs or for those that focus on early childhood development.
Steering the discussion back to tax issues, the moderator asked audience members for their views on various revenue proposals. Only Marlyn Kefauver, league president, stepped forward to support a county lodging tax.
"No one in the county pays for it," she said. "It's the people who come to visit and I've never heard of anyone not visiting a town because they didn't want to pay the hotel tax."
After Kefauver's comment, other residents approached the podium to voice support for "reasonable" tax increases, but few offered any specifics.
3 Sheriff's Deputies Honored
Three Charles County sheriff's deputies were honored Saturday at the Maryland Sheriffs Association convention in Ocean City, the Charles County sheriff's office said this week. Two were recognized for valor at the scene of a burning building and the other for his dogged pursuit of child abuse cases.
Officers Charles McCue, 28, and David Willis, 24, were named deputies of the year for valor for rescuing victims of a Waldorf apartment fire in July 1998.
McCue first spotted fire burning in a residential apartment building near his home and evacuated residents, including lifting one elderly couple off their second-floor balcony to safety, the sheriff's office said. Willis, who also was off duty that evening, responded to the scene and helped evacuate residents.
The award noted that no one was seriously injured in the blaze as a result of the two deputies' efforts.
Detective Stephen Salvas, whose unit investigates crimes against children, was honored with the "Contribution to Profession" award for his aggressive investigation of child abuse cases. His work produced 32 felony arrests in the last two years, the sheriff's office said.
Staff writer Annie Gowen contributed to this report.